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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Raheem Morris pumps up kids, laments Bucs' missed offseason

With the NFL still mired in its lockout, Raheem Morris can’t coach his football team, so he instead offered some of his best coaching points to a group of Tampa schoolchildren Tuesday morning.

“I hope (my visit) just gives them inspiration to go out and be their best selves,” Morris said after an FCAT rally at Walton Academy for the Performing Arts, echoing a message he often uses with his players.

At some point, Morris hopes, he’ll again be able to resume imparting messages to his team. But the NFL’s lockout continues after more than two months, and each passing day means the Bucs – as well as other teams – must do further revamping of their offseason schedule.

While the Bucs would normally be deeply involved in offseason practices the past few weeks, players have been reduced to working out either in small groups or, in some cases, individually.

Whenever the lockout is lifted, Morris admits significant adjustments will be required.

Much of the team’s critical scheme installation is done this time of year.

“You do a lot of installing in OTAs, and you do a lot of install in minicamp, and you also do a lot of install in training camp,” Morris said. “You’re able to repeat those days sometimes, as well.

“There are times when you can take your time installing certain things one day at a time. This year, it may be a little bit more of a faster install.”

With OTAs (offseason team activities) and minicamp in serious jeopardy, NFL teams might be limited only to training camp. That would have far-reaching implications for introducing new concepts and schemes to players. So, Morris and his staff are looking at various methods, tailoring different approaches to different scenarios because no one knows how much time they’ll ultimately have to prepare for the season.

Rookies, in particular, will be affected. While returning players have their past knowledge of the playbook to build on, the system is completely new for incoming players. This is among the many things the Bucs’ staff is taking into account.

“You have to prepare like every day (the lockout) is going to end,” Morris said. “Right now, we’re just in the office and we’re just (adjusting) our schedule and the days you miss, how are you going to install? How are you going to prepare? What’s going to happen? When is it going to happen? It doesn’t matter. You have to prepare for all those situations and all those scenarios.”

Coaches map out an offseason plan months in advance, but those plans became obsolete long ago.

“Every day that goes by, you miss something, but you find a way to get it in,” Morris said. “So, hopefully we continue to stay (on) the cutting edge. My coaches constantly stay in contact with me and I’m constantly in contact with those guys. Myself and (offensive coordinator Greg) Olson have to be on the same page as far as install and how we want to put things in, along with having a new special teams coordinator, Dwayne Stukes. He’s fired up but he’s missing some of his days as well.”

Meanwhile, with little going on at One Buc Place, Morris took some time out to visit the charter school this morning. School officials wanted to celebrate the marked improvement in standardized test scores, and they did so with a music-filled rally that displayed the students’ talents.

Just 31 percent of students achieved a proficient score on the FCAT last year. But after implementing a number of measures and programs, scores improved dramatically. Fourth-graders, for example, had a 100 percent proficiency rate on the 2011 test. Walton achieved this despite its many socioeconomic challenges. Ninety-three percent of the school’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“I was impressed when I came and looked at the numbers,” Morris said. “And you know stats are for losers, but to come here and see the genuine enthusiasm by the faculty and the students, and the support, it’s really fun.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:54pm]


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